#rumfamily : Favourite Rum Writers-Peter Holland

Continuing the #rumfamily series we get to know someone who was one of the first people to ‘show me the way’ on my Rum journey, Peter Holland. Peter is passionate about showing what ‘Rum’ is and can be and is always very giving with his time and knowledge. He is someone who has done so much for the category whilst remaining grounded and approachable and is basically one of the good guys!

How long have you been blogging?
It’s been ten years since I started. February 2009 saw the first post, although to say I’ve been blogging ten years would be a mistake, as I’ve hardly posted in the last year or so. Despite all the best intentions. Now my writing is limited to blogs like Flaviar and various trade publications. Oh and as a contributor to That Boutique-y Rum Company.

What got you started/what is your background?
My visit to the 2008 London RumFest nailed down the huge diversity in Rum, and whilst at that time I may well have been a bit like ‘all Rum is awesome’ because I was new to the category and uneducated in terms of process, I was sufficiently hooked to want to find out more. There were other motivators at the time, but this one was pretty fundamental.

I came at Rum from an entirely consumer aspect. Until recently, I didn’t work in the drinks trade – coming from an Engineering background. Of course, marrying into a West Indian family might have helped kick start the initial connection to Rum. Prior to that, I was a cider, lager kinda guy. My girlfriend of the time – who became my wife – first introduced the notion of a Rum or two, although, at the time (and due to the location), that was little more than Captain Morgan Spiced, Mount Gay Eclipse and Cockspur.

What was your first memorable rum?
Difficult to pick just one really. Pauline and I popped along to the Whisky Exchange shop at Vinopolis and asked the team there for suggestions on three Rums. If I recall correctly we ended up with Angostura 1919 (when it had an 8yo age statement), English Harbour 5yo and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. At the time I was amazed by the diversity in style. The Rums were soon polished off. Perhaps now I wouldn’t be so amazed, but the journey of discovery has taken me a long way. I kinda like to taste and make decisions for myself, at least until I find someone whom I feel things the same way as I do and therefore trust.

How has the rum industry changed since you have been blogging?
I wouldn’t say that there was no detailed or critical blogging – it’s just I didn’t see it – and I didn’t really hang around on the forums, so my perspective was very much “woo-hoo rum” at the start. But I’d say the last ten years has been all about critical reveals and education and (of course) there are a lot more people getting involved. When I first started there were only a few UK based Rum bloggers of course. I’d say the standard has continued to rise and that for the most part, the quality has also risen.

I’d also say that the mode of conversation has become easier. Technology makes it easier to converse and share opinions. I guess I feel a little out of touch in some respects. I also feel I prefer chatting face to face these days, rather than over the electronic airways! Perhaps I’m just getting old…   😉

What is the most challenging thing about blogging?
Easy: keeping at it! I’ve known a bunch of people who make the whole “Right, I’ve started a blog” announcement and then five posts later given up. You sacrifice a lot of personal time to keep it going. It takes an understanding partner or a solo lifestyle to make it work for the long haul.

Eventually though, things change – I personally don’t feel a massively pressing urge to pick up where I left off. Even if I know I really should.

What is the most rewarding thing?
Connecting with people. Especially those you don’t know. Even now I get people in different parts of the world say “I used to read your blog” – which kinda makes me feel like I still should be, but it’s still pretty cool to hear.

The blog has helped me to travel extensively and I’ve met so many super cool people along the way. It’s helped me develop and try new things. I can’t imagine life without it to be honest.

Who has helped you/who do you respect in the industry?
So many people stand out over the last ten years. Ian Burrell and Paul McFadyen – both vital at the beginning. Stef Holt, Richard Seale, Alexandre Gabriel, Miguel Smith, Shervene Shahbazkhani, Meimi Sanchez, Emilie Cozens… Honestly, the list could go on and on. And I now feel bad that I’ve not mentioned all those that I should.

What frustrates you about the industry?
I’d say that in general, the whole booze industry is somehow free from the notion of disclosure. Pick up a packet of crisps, or a can of cola and you’ll see jsut what it contains. Pick up a bottle of wine, and you may see “contains sulphites”. Pick up a bottle of whisky in Germany and you might see “contains caramel”, but really the booze world gets away with a lot. If consumers genuinely knew what was added, and what proportions, I think we’d all feel a lot differently. People smoke cigarettes knowing that it’s potenitally taking years off their life – and to some the notion seems stupid – but its an informed choice, even if the decision making process appears daft. The notion of sugar, flavourings or other junk in rum is a lot less of a health risk, but a lot of people get stuck in blissfully or otherwise unaware. Label disclosure would help. Sure it would have an impact on bottle aesthetics, but thats small potatoes.

We also know people that would still drink what they do because of a myriad of reasons, no less of which is sheer bloody mindedness – a similar reflection of modern day politics. But at least the truth would be out there and conversation would change. Perhaps the conversation would move on, perhaps it wouldn’t – but at least a major issue would be laid open for all to see.

What is your best bit of advice to someone new to rum?
Try as many different expressions as you can and find out what processes brought them to market. The more you know about what you’re putting in your mouth, the better you’ll understand why you like or dislike it. And don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t make it true. In addition to all the good reviewers and writers, there are still a bunch of idiots writing uninformed and ignorant rubbish. Until you understand the process of Rum making you won’t know if the words you’re reading are right or wrong – so proper research is required. Trust your own palate – only you know what you like. Don’t worry about what others think, don’t forget invariably they are expressing their own opinion. I’ve spent a lot of time building up my opinion. And to be honest, those tips can happily apply to many things in life.

Any unicorn/bucket list rums you haven’t tried yet?
Honestly, there aren’t many things I can say I feel I must try. I’ve tried a lot – sometimes – not enough of it, more often though I’ve had more than I should of some crap. I guess I’d like to try more vintage agricole expressions, drink more lovely Jamaican rum, but in all honesty – if I popped my clogs tomorrow, I’d not be too unhappy with my choices thus far.

What is your proudest achievement so far?
That’s tough. Probably turning the hobby into what appears at the moment a viable freelance career. I kinda like where I am right now.

If you can, what would be your top three rums ever?
Pass. Too many variables.

What would be your top three easily obtainable rums to have now?
Pass. Too many variables, although I might feature Foursquare 2005 on the list. And JM XO, and HSE XO, and Trois Rivieres 50% blanc, and a nice Caroni, and an Appleton Reserve… Honestly, the list goes on and on.

What is your drink of choice at the moment?
Stirred and brown, 50-50 made with a nice aged r(h)um and sweet vermouth. I’d allow a dash of bitters.

Do you have any Predictions for the future of rum?
More junk masquerading as ‘super premium’ resplendent with a fancy bottle and wood presentation box. Even more genuinely premium, authentic Rums gracing us with their presence. And an absolute shit-ton of Spiced Rum – enough to float a battleship on. Honestly, there will be more Spiced Rum than you can shake a stick at. So much so, that there will be Spiced Rum only blogs out there. Honestly, we’re just getting going on that front.